A two minute and forty-one second video titled Lights Out, which was originally made as a contest submission for an online horror movie contest, has now spiraled into what has become David F. Sandberg’s feature-length directorial debut. With Lights Out set to hit theaters this Friday via Warner Bros. Pictures, a sequel to Annabelle in the middle of principal photography, and even more projects on the way, Sandberg is without a doubt one of the next big directors in the world of Hollywood.
Sandberg recently took the time to chat with us earlier this week to discuss the creation process behind Lights Out, how his dreams turned into a reality, and what he has planned in the world of Hollywood next.
You can read our complete interview with Sandberg below.
Lights Out went from being a short YouTube video that was just under three minutes long to being a feature length film. How did this come about? Did the studio approach you first?
My wife Lotta and I made this two and a half minute short back home in Sweden for no money at all. It was supposed to be a contest submission for an online horror contest. We shot it one evening after Lotta got off work and we didn’t make the top six finalists in the competition, although I did win the best director award which was awesome. I figured that was pretty much it! But then, a few months later, people just started sharing it online and it started getting like millions of views. All of a sudden, all these people from Hollywood were starting to email and call to talk to me. It was just insane that a two and a half minute short can get that much attention.
For anybody who hasn’t seen the short, or anybody who hasn’t been lucky enough to check out the film yet, could you tell us a little bit about the premise?
It was just Lotta and me and we had to find out what was the scariest thing that we could do with just one actress and an apartment. We had this idea, I’m sure a lot of people have experienced this, when you turn off the lights at home at night and you think you see… You know, the shadows kind of look like a person and you have to turn the lights back on just to double check. What if there was actually someone there every time you turned off the lights? That seemed like a great concept to play with for two and a half minutes, and now almost ninety minutes.
Do you have any plans to turn some of your other short films into feature-length projects?
We would love to do that. Lights Out was actually a short that we didn’t have any sort of feature idea for. It was only supposed to be a short, but we have other shorts like Pictured for instance that we had this feature idea first and then we sort of made the short just as a little proof of concept. Pictured is the one where a picture keeps changing, so we have an idea for that one. Also, I think Cam Closer, which is another short about a phone that sees the future—I think that could be a cool movie too.
Diana is one of the scariest movie villains as of recent and she plays on everybody’s biggest fear in the dark. Is she inspired by any other horror villains?
Not really. It all sort of started with a very simple idea. We could have a silhouette standing in the dark, and that’s all we pretty much could do. It was what we used. I had Lotta be naked because I wanted you to be able to read the silhouette not have clothes. For the feature, I was lucky enough to have James Wan come on-board as a producer of this film, and he was actually asking me in the beginning, “Are you sure you want her to be naked in the movie? Is that going to be problematic for you?” I was like, “Well no. What would be scarier: to be chased by someone fully clothed or or someone absolutely naked?”
How difficult was it to light each shot perfectly and be able to combine the stories of Diana and the family?
It was insanely difficult to have a character in the movie that you can’t have light on, because I didn’t want to cheat and have a rim light or just have a little bit of light. I wanted to be if she’s in the light; she disappears. We had to really figure out every shot, so it took a lot of storyboarding and planning for those shots.
As you mentioned earlier, one of the biggest producers on the film, and maybe one of the biggest names in horror right now is James Wan. What role did he play in making the film a reality and what was it like to meet him? Did you get to pick his brain a little?
He was one of the first to come on-board the project even before New Line or Warner Bros. The first guy who contacted me was a producer named Lawrence Grey who knew James Wan. So, he started talking with James Wan and asked if this could be something for him. James had seen the short and thought that it was a really cool short, but he wasn’t really sure if there was enough there for a feature. So, I wrote a treatment of what I wanted the film to be and that sort of sold James on the idea that there was actually something here. Then he was very involved, like all the way through the script stage. He had a lot of ideas for sort of the backstory. Like, in my original treatment, she [Diana] was more of a demon and James had this idea that she if she was more of a ghost or someone that had been a person, she could have had known Sophie earlier in life and have a more emotional connection. The guy knows horror.
Is it easier having your wife Lotta by your side the entire time while making a movie?
We’re a team. We’ve made all of these shorts together and Lights Out started with just her and I, so we’re on this journey together and we want to do a lot more together.
What’s it like to make a film that is so well loved in a genre that is typically not well received by critics?
Very surprising, actually! Like you said, horror is not normally well received by critics. When we finished it was like, “Yeah! I think this could play with general audiences, but I don’t think it’s going to get good reviews.” So far so good!
You’re on the set of Annabelle 2 right now. Are there any new details about the upcoming horror sequel that you can share with us?
It’s still a period piece. It takes place in the past and it’s about an orphanage. It’s just a perfect setting and a perfect environment for a horror movie. There are certainly no cell phones to call for help or stuff like that.
Sam Raimi reteaming with Columbia Pictures to direct, produce untitled horror project
Columbia Pictures confirmed Friday that it has acquired the rights to an untitled horror project that is set to be directed and produced by Sam Raimi, making it the genre maestro’s first directorial effort on a horror film 2009’s Drag Me to Hell.
“I am thrilled to be reunited with Columbia Pictures and re-teaming with Sanford [Panitch] and Ange [Giannetti],” Raimi said in a statement. “I have been a fan of Shannon and Swift and we have found the perfect adventure to share with the world.”
While details about the project are being kept tightly under wraps, the film — which was written by Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, based on an original idea they conceived — is comparable to Misery and Cast Away in terms of its tone, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Raimi and Zainab Azizi are producing the film via their Raimi Productions label, while Giannetti is overseeing the production for Columbia Pictures, which moved quickly to acquire the rights to the project before other studios even had a chance to make a bid on it.
Production on the film is expected to get underway in 2020.
Phoenix: Warner Bros. invites you to a screening of Edward Norton’s ‘Motherless Brooklyn’
Warner Bros. will release Motherless Brooklyn, the new crime drama from writer, director, and star Edward Norton, on October 19 and its giving Silver Screen Beat readers in Phoenix a chance to attend an advance screening of the film before it officially opens in theaters.
Our readers in Phoenix can click on this link right now to claim their free passes — good for you and one guest — to attend an advance screening of Motherless Brooklyn happening at Harkins Scottsdale 101 on Monday, October 28 at 6:30 p.m.
Keep in mind that these free passes are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to claim yours as soon as possible before they run out. Below is the official trailer for Motherless Brooklyn as well as some additional details about the film.
Directed by: Edward Norton
Cast: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, and Willem Dafoe
Opens: Friday, November 1
Rating: R for language throughout, including some sexual references, brief drug use, and violence
Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of 1950s New York, Motherless Brooklyn follows Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), a lonely private detective living with Tourette Syndrome, as he ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Armed only with a few clues and the engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely-guarded secrets that hold the fate of the whole city in the balance. In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York’s power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honor his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation.
Paul Dano in talks to play the Riddler in ‘The Batman’ as Jonah Hill passes on the role
Paul Dano is headed to Gotham City as the actor is in talks to play the classic comic book villain the Riddler in Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman, Silver Screen Beat has learned.
Dano joins a star-studded cast that already includes the likes of Robert Pattinson as the titular Caped Crusader, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, and Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon. Reeves is expected to round out the rest of the cast before the year’s end in anticipation of an early 2020 production start.
The news of Dano’s casting comes less than a day after reports surfaced about Jonah Hill turning down the role after he and his team failed to reach an agreement with Warner Bros. after spending weeks at the negotiating table.
Sources tell Silver Screen Beat that Hill’s camp was trying to broker a $10 million deal for the actor, which is more than half of what Pattinson — the star of the film — is reportedly making.
Reeves, who first boarded The Batman in early 2017 following the unsurprising departure of Ben Affleck, is directing the film from a script he wrote, in addition to producing along with his Planet of the Apes collaborator Dylan Clark.
The Batman is scheduled to be released June 25, 2021.